Successful applicant on buggery ruling …”ROWLEY WILL BE A HERO”

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Jason Jones, the man who challenged the constitutionality of the buggery laws in Trinidad and Tobago, says Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will be a hero when he (Rowley) attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in London next week.

Jones said, “The world is watching. They know what happened in Trinidad and when Dr Rowley is in London, he will be a hero as the one who will change the law to outlaw buggery.”

Jones leaves for London on Friday afternoon. He lives there, but came here to challenge sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act.

On Thursday, Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that these two sections were unconstitutional, null and void. He did not strike down the law, but invited further submissions on July on the way forward.

Meanwhile, Government will appeal the High Court ruling on the ruling that the buggery law is unconstitutional.

In his 58-page judgment, Rampersad ruled the legislation contravened Jones’ rights to privacy and family life. He also said it is not reasonably justifiable in a society that respects the rights and freedoms of the individual.

Rampersad added, “The claimant, and others who express their sexual orientation in a similar way, cannot lawfully live their life, their private life, nor can they choose their life partners or create the families that they wish.”

Although he acknowledged claims from State attorneys that the legislation has never been enforced against consenting adults, he said that did not mitigate the impact on Jones and other homosexuals, who lived in fear of being branded criminals based on their expression of love and affection.

The judge said, “Maintaining an unenforced law on the statutes makes no logical sense and, instead, seems more vindictive than protective or curative in manner. As if to hold a “big stick” over a minority to try to enforce a portion of society’s morality over it.”

He suggested by allowing it to remain as valid law, Parliament had helped to cultivate society’s homophobic views on the issue.

“The fact that the State proscribes against it quite obviously validates society’s feelings against anyone who does call himself a homosexual, to the extent that society may possibly feel justified in denouncing the practice forcefully or physically”

Rampersad also questioned claims by State attorneys that the law remained in place to protect society’s family values.

“What is a traditional family? If it is limited to a mother, father and children, then, once again, the rationale for keeping that template is no longer sufficiently important as the rationale for denying the claimant’s fundamental right,” he said, as he noted that single parent households have been the norm.

Although Rampersad considered submissions from the T&T Council of Evangelical Churches and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) in deciding the case, he noted that their religious dogma had very little weight on his ruling.

“This is a case about the dignity of the person and not about the will of the majority or any religious debate. History has proven that the two do not always coincide,” Rampersad said.

“To my mind, religious debates are best left to be discussed and resolved in other quarters with persons who subscribe to those particular ideals and for the followers of those ideals to be convinced as to the religiousness, sanctity or morality of those ideals.”

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JASON JONES
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JUSTICE DEVINDRA RAMPERSAD

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